Thursday, October 30, 2008

Comparing the costs of youth sports ($$$)

The costs of participating in sports varies so much it’s ridiculous, but completely understandable.

1) On the low end is FREE….all school sports are free, although you may have a fund-raiser or two, if it’s time to buy new uniforms or need to travel pretty far (think High School Band) on a rare occasion. My kids on school teams have never had to pay for playing…the costs of the fields, the coach, the bus rides to other schools, the uniforms, and equipment have always been covered by the county school system or the PTA (uniforms usually). Often there are extra’s that you can purchase, like sweats with your name and number on them, and team photos, but the actual cost of playing on the basketball team is generally free. Other free sports teams/events….hmmmmm, not so much. Most things have at least a tiny fee.

2) Next up is the REALLY CHEAP…this includes playing rec soccer, basketball, etc on teams sponsored by the local Parks and Rec department, PAL (police action league), YMCA, Boys and Girls clubs, etc. Think…not privately owned organizations. In my experience there is a small price for a season of playing which includes about one game and one practice per week. The coaches are usually volunteer moms and dads. This cost is a bargain, usually between $20.00 and $80.00 per season, and they also usually get a t-shirt. This is how we always start to get a feel for what each kid likes and is good at.

3) Now comes the big step….EXPENSIVE when your kid gets a little better and a little older (9+) it’s time to decide if he’s ready to move to the big leagues: the travel teams (of which there are even more levels of skill and cost). They practice a lot more than once a week, they have professional coaches and they charge accordingly. Soccer for example, you’d think that would be cheap no matter what the level, but no, it’s not (nor is Hockey, AAU Baseball or Basketball, Cheerleading, Lacrosse, etc.). Based on my experience, you could pay from 500.00-5000.00/year to play. For example, to play on a top level travel soccer team costs approximately (in my area) 3000.00. Breaking it down:
150.00/month for 10 months for team and club fees (which covers coaches, fields, refs, etc)
300.00 for the uniform
1000.00 for 3-5 tournaments (hotel, gas, entry fees, misc. travel costs)

Other team sports are very similar. As for things like Gymnastics teams, Cheerleading All Stars, year round swimming, etc ; although the line items may be a little different (instead of paying Ref Fees, you may be paying for 6 uniforms, or a choreographer, or judges fees) but the numbers come out to the same: $2000-3000/year for top levels. You can decide whether it worth it. Depends totally on the kid and your situation....for me it is worth it because of what my kid gets out of it (which could be the subject of another post).

So……is there a $$ level somewhere between #2 and #3? YES, but often it’s hard to do, and you may have to mix and match services. Often a child at those critical “in-between ages and skill levels” really wants to make a big commitment to playing his sport at a higher level than the once/week YMCA rec volleyball team. However you, your family’s finances and quite possibly your child are not quite sure you’re ready for the commitment of a highy competitive, expensive team. There are plenty of things you can do to bridge the gap, test the waters, etc. I’ve tried all of these with much success. After a few years, it will be obvious whether moving up to the “big leagues” is the right move for your kid and your family.

a) Multiple rec teams/same sport—sign little Mia Hamm up for 2 rec teams this spring. She can play soccer with 2 local parks and rec club teams; most weeks she’ll end up with 2 practices on weeknights and 2 games on Saturday, thus she's getting twice the fun. Yes there will be a few conflicts, but for the most part this has worked great for my kids. If she is loving it and consistently the best player on the teams, maybe next year she can tryout for a Classic or Premier team. It’s still cheap as hell, and it will give you a sense of the insanity of running across town 4 times a week, juggling various practice, game, and snack schedules, and keeping track of numerous uniform pieces. Can you handle it?? Does your kid love it?? If Yes, you can keep doing this or move to the next level next season (one big team, well skilled, better coached, with lots of practices per week)

b) Training program or clinics—most sports have private clubs that offer weekly training skills training in a specific sports. So your young basketball player could play Rec level basketball on a Parks and Rec team, with one practice and one game per week AND he could attend a one night per week attend a basketball skills clinic at a private organization. Usually these programs cost 50-75/month around here and focus solely on skills. I’ve noticed considerable improvement everytime we’ve done this (we’ve done it with swimming, soccer, and basketball in the past 5 years or so…..oh and also had one son do a speed and agility session which he still credits with helping him make a special basketball team a few years later)

c) Multiple-sport rec teams/different sports. If you kid is just not getting enough activity, let him play on rec soccer team and a rec baseball team during the same season. This is still a really cheap option, and will have the same pitfalls and adventures as #a above, but will let him explore more options… It will also show him and you what he enjoys most and what he is most naturally talented at. Maybe even one team sport and one individual sport (karate, swimming). The biggest pitfall of this is that for a small subset of kids, they never want to give one up next season..they want to keep playing both soccer and baseball, and probably want to add Football too.. That’s when you know you have a true youth athlete. Eventually, if they do want to play at the higher level, they’ll have to pick a sport (or possibly 2), but at this age let him do as much as you both can handle.


mark salinas said...

Thanks for three kids are getting more expensive by the day. I need all the information I can get! Have a nice weekend...and Halloween of course!

Crabby McSlacker said...

Interesting! I think I realized what an investment in time parents had to make in kids sports, but I don't think I realized what a huge financial commitment it could be. Yikes!

Mark said...

Have a nice weekend!

Melissa said...

OH LORD!! Thank God my kids were more musically inclined. Though my youngest was fairly gung-ho for gymnastics and dance--we couldn't afford many classes at the time, and thank god she didn't get obsessed to the point where serious parental involvement, NTM finances, were necessary.

I was a really selfish parent: I told them they could do TWO THINGS, and that was it. Cathedral choir (which was the great love of them all), and an instrument or sport or other such endeavor. Otherwise we'd have had to hire them a personal assistant each or give up our own lives. As it was, we had to shell out thousands for them to go on choir tours to England.